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New Zealand unveils Stonehenge replica

Stonehenge Aotearoa is designed to educate the public about astronomy and the technical capabilities of the ancients. Photo: 21st-century Stonehenge

Celts, rejoice! A full-scale replica of Stonehenge has opened in New Zealand.

Located roughly 90 minutes from the capital city of Wellington, Stonehenge Aotearoa is designed to educate the public about astronomy and the technical capabilities of the ancients, as well as draw tourists. It doesn't look like the present-day, crumbling 4,000-year-old stones in southern England. Rather, it tries to re-create how the structures may have appeared at the time of their ribbon cutting.

Like the ancient megaliths, Stonehenge Aotearoa is a tool for studying and measuring nature. The old Stonehenge functioned as an astronomical calendar, allowing Celts to identify planting and harvesting days by examining the position of the sun in relation to different stones. (Many archeologists also believe Stonehenge was built as a way to ostentatiously display military and technical might.)

Stonehenge Aotearoa can be used to distill information about Babylonian astronomy, Polynesian navigation and Maori star lore. Conceivably, those groups could have turned to Stonehenge if it had been nearby. The new structure can also be used to determine the timing of equinoxes and other important dates in the Southern Hemisphere.

More than 1,000 hours of astronomical calculations and surveys went into the design of the structure, which took about a year to erect, according to the Phoenix Astronomical Society, which came up with the idea for the replica and built it.